Tectonic Shifts

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After World War II, British influence gave way to American power everywhere around the globe except the heartland of Eurasia. There, the Soviet Union held sway. Today, however, a new page is turning in the history of great empires.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, geopolitical experts have concluded that leaders in Moscow have become but junior partners to their richer, more confident and less globally despised neighbors in Beijing, the Washington Post reported.

Before Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops to Ukraine in late February, he attended a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping where the two declared “no limits” to their partnership. As their embrace has tightened, however, Russa is increasingly looking diminished in comparisons between the two.

In Foreign Affairs, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Senior Fellow Alexander Gabuev called Russia “China’s New Vassal.”

As Defense One explained, Russia, for example, has become dependent on Chinese military equipment as Western embargoes have blocked imports of sophisticated parts. But the end result could be that China swamps Russia’s domestic arms market while stealing its customers in other parts of the world.

China was an important buyer of Russian oil and coal before the invasion of Ukraine. Now, as Time magazine noted, the combination of new Western financial restrictions on Russian banks due to the Ukraine war and those close trade ties risks making the Russian economy overly dependent on China. As The Diplomat added, Chinese financial institutions and companies have filled the void left by exiting Western competitors.

As the Council on Foreign Relations wrote, however, while Russia and China are both authoritarian states that use totalitarian methods to suppress regime critics, they’re likely banding together because Putin and Xi are more united in their opposition to the US than because of a “natural affinity for each other.” The two countries have a long history of mistrust, including disagreements over how to build a communist society.

That said, as Foreign Policy reported, China has still not publicly supported or condemned Russia’s invasion. Instead, in an important show of diplomatic support, Chinese officials have lent credence to Russia’s contention that NATO’s expansion triggered the war.

Is a global reordering a consequence of these shifts? China, for instance, has grown less popular in Ukraine and other former Soviet republics in East Europe where anti-Russia sentiments are high, Radio Free Europe reported.

The Ukrainians surely feel that the friends of their enemies are not their friends.

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